It was January 2016 that I fell in love with three young Donegal brothers. We were sat in The Cottage Bar in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal talking about their music and their future. The United States was very much at the fore and the dream was very much alive. Now in September 2019 that dream has very much come to fruition and is being lived every day with those three boys and their Dad. With Mum very much at the fore also. The Byrne Family might hail from Donegal, but they really are taking the US by storm.
The Bryne Brothers appeared on The Late Late Toy Show in 2015. That appearance was to change their lives. Their Dad Tommy told me recently: ” Before the Toy Show we had just done a Summer season at Harvey’s Point Cabaret, and before that The Slice of Ireland at The Central Hotel.” The day after The Toy show that year, these young men were on the front cover of The Irish Times.
The three brothers are now 15, 13 and 10. When did they start playing music. Tommy confirms that: “Luca and Finn Started on the Fiddle at 5 and 7 and Dempsey came on stage at The Central Hotel age 2 with a wee bodhran. When Finn was 8 he got a banjo off his Grandad for Christmas, and he never lifted the fiddle again. Luca was on the accordion from the age of 8.”
When you see these boys playing and on that stage, you really do witness a little piece of music heaven. It’s truly magic in every way. I recently saw We Banjo 3 play live. They were the most amazing band I’ve ever seen. The Byrne Brothers come a close second.
I asked Tommy when they started playing as a family for audiences? “I was directing an Irish Show at the Central Hotel”, he says, “and the manager Eamonn Gillespie invited the boys to perform on stage, and the rest is history.” Here’s a clip of that very performance in 2012:
The boys have come a long way since that 2012 performance, with a long residency at Raglan Road in Orlando, Florida, and now touring the United States at present. Was America always your goal or how did that opportunity come about? Tommy tells me: “We went to Orlando on holiday and the boys got up on stage at Raglan Road, did a dance, then we got an email from Raglan asking if we would be interested in coming over the following year 2017 to play for 2 weeks over St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We jumped at the chance and went over, had the best time of our lives and then heard that we could get a green card for extraordinary ability in the Arts, so we went for it and got it and here we are!”
As a family The Byrne’s sold up all in Donegal and made the move almost two years ago? Any regrets? Tommy doens’t hesitate! “No, not one.” However he does add, “but we did miss not being at the Fleadh. Maybe next year we’ll be home for it and do a couple a gigs.” I already have the fingers and toes all crossed!
Are the boys enjoying playing music now for a living? Dad tells me: “It’s not like a job, we play to thousands of people at amazing festivals with incredible bands like We Banjo 3 on the weekend, and we go camping around America during the week (& do schoolwork then) so, are they enjoying the life of playing music in America? Yes.” It sounds amazing.
How has family life changed in the past two years I want to know? “No change”, says Tommy, “we’re still the same but really enjoying homeschooling. The boys are also into Photography and Videography and they have been able to buy the best of equipment with their own money, so this is something they study and will continue to improve on and will be movie makers in no time.” I have no doubt these boys will suceed in all areas indeed.
And so, just what has been the highlight of the American experience so far? Tommy has no hesitatioin in telling me: “Milwaukee was definitely the highlight so far, and then to be asked back again next year was a real bonus. But apart from the music we love, the weather here, everyone is so nice, encouraging and positive. It really is a true land of opportunity. Another nice highlight was being asked by America’s Got Talent to appear on the show. They loved what we do and our immigration story. Emails, then phone calls from producers, then ex winners asking us, but it’s not for us. We’re really enjoying the whole journey, so we’re not in any hurry to be famous.”
When can we see The Byrne Brothers playing on home ground next? Sadly Tommy tells me, “No plans to go home yet, we’ve another 3 weeks to go on this tour including Nashville and then we go back to Florida for 3 weeks, then we’re off to play in Hawaii. We’re then back for Christmas and do a new cd, and in January we’re doing a Caribbean cruise with Andy Cooney, and after that another cruise with Kathy Durkinso. It’s all go!”
It certainly is ‘all go’ with this young family. And I know for a fact from talking with them, and having met them, that they really wouldn’t change a thing. This is a family who has followed thier dream. A family who ablsolutely love what they do. A family who are very much together and rooted in daily family life. They might be travelling the US, playing music to 1,000’s of people, but at the heart of it all, they really are a family. And that’s why I love them so much.
The Byrne Family, keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy every minute.
(Oh and Happy birthday to Dad, Tommy today. A very young 50 he has just turned.)